Corporate Eye

Green – Not the Same to Everyone

green_brandingNew research from the Shelton Group tells us that the term ‘green’ can mean very different things to different people as it applies to consumer behavior.  The result — brands need to market to these consumers very differently.  In other words, the subsegments of consumers that make up the environmentally-conscious audience are diverse and highly nichey.  In other words, one message does not fit all when it comes to green branding and marketing.

Basically, the study reminds us of something we should already know.  Just because a person claims to be environmentally conscious doesn’t mean that every aspect of his life and buying behavior is guided by the green movement.  The truth is, only a subsegment of the environmentally-conscious audience will forego comfort to actually be more environmentally conscious.  According to the study, 77% of the 1,000 consumers surveyed reported that they purchase green products occasionally, but of that group, only 26% of them claimed they would reduce their energy consumption “to lessen their impacts on the environment” while 77% said they tried to reduce their energy consumption to “reduce their bills and control their costs.”

There also appears to be a gap in thinking when it comes to the terminology brands might use to market their products.  According to the study, 72% of respondents claimed to be interested in owning an energy-efficient home, but only 47% were interested in owning a green home.

What can we learn from this study as brand leaders?  First, you must create green messages based on the target audience for the product you’re trying to sell just as you do for every other aspect of your business or products.  Second, you need to understand the terminology that appeals to each subsegment of your larger target audience and speak to them using the words that appeal to them.

In other words, green is just one more benefit of your products, and as such, you need to market that benefit appropriately to each subsegment of your audience.  Think of it this way — would you market a car to a male audience over the age of 60 the same way that you would market it to a female audience under the age of 40?  While some of the benefits of that car might appeal to both audiences, it’s likely that the reasons each audience likes those benefits are quite different.  The same thing applies to green branding and marketing.

It’s time to stop lumping green products into the same category and marketing them all the same way to everyone.  Doing so just doesn’t get the job done or the sale made anymore.  Talk to your customers and find out what green benefits are important to them and then create marketing messages that appeal to your specific niche audiences.

What do you think?

Image: Flickr

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.